Three truths to contemplate when exploring a country for the first time: If your guide is a former documentary filmmaker, you’re bound to see some stunning views. When quality coffee (and yes, maybe a little rum) is in abundance, it’s hard to have a bad time. Finally, it pays to visit at just the right moment on the popularity bell curve. On these points, Nicaragua is three for three.
Perhaps because it has been overlooked in favor of its decidedly discovered neighbor Costa Rica, Nicaragua has been allowed to ripen at its own pace, and now may be the moment to experience the country as it should be seen. And, for my money, that means seeing it with Dominic Allan, founder of specialty travel company Real Latin America and a BAFTA-nominated director in his previous career.
After flying into Managua and spending a night the Hotel Contempo, a smartly designed hotel with lush gardens that wind through the property, Allan’s itinerary took full advantage of Nicaragua’s myriad landscapes, mixing moments of adventure with occasions for deliberate relaxation—a fishing expedition down secret rivers, a hike to a secluded beach on a remote island, a taste of historical Granada’s rum-tinged nightlife, an afternoon swim in the caldera of an extinct volcano, and studied downtime at an impeccably designed ecolodge. Below are just some of my many highlights.